Monday, August 20, 2007

Eilen Jewell: The Well-Rounded Radio Interview

I first heard Eilen (rhymes with feelin') Jewell's music as she was playing at the Green River Music Festival in Greenfield, Massachusetts in the summer of 2006. Jewell was playing an outdoor stage, under a tent, with a myriad of activities going on around the festival property for both kids and adults, but the crowd was listening with rapt attention...not an easy thing to do when playing in such a setting!

Jewell's debut album, Boundary County, was self-released in 2005 and she subsequently signed to Signature Sounds, which released Letters from Sinners and Strangers in late June 2007. Jewell is playing live in the coming months at various points around the US.

Her music bridges a number of different worlds, including folk, country, blues, and jazz. If this isn't Americana at its most intertwined, I don't know what is. Jewell is often compared to singers such as Billie Holiday, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, Norah Jones, and she cites them, and Hank Williams, as influences, too. I also hear a bit of Mary Margaret O’Hara in Jewell’s voice.

Jewell's band consists of Jason Beek on drums, Jerry Miller on electric and steel guitar, and Johnny Sciascia on upright bass. The group's secret weapon is guitarist Miller, who can take the band from folk to blues to jazz to soul all within a single song. Other musical guests on the disc include Daniel Kellar on violin (formerly of the Tarbox Ramblers, who I interviewed a few years back) and Alec Spiegelman on clarinet, both of whom help Jewell’s music stretch into new territories.

At a recent live performance at Boston’s Lizard Lounge, I thought, if you closed your eyes for a minute, the music really could transport you back in time about 60 or 70 years...